I had hoped that we would discuss identity at the Academic BEtreat and I wasn’t disappointed. What I hadn’t expected was that my own identity would become such a focus of my learning on the BEtreat.
In the 21st century the work of building an identity is greater than ever before. Identity is a negotiated expression of the self and these days there are so many landscapes and communities in which to do this, particularly for the young. In the past learners did not have so many choices or spaces in which to negotiate their identity and there were not the same opportunities to change jobs. Once a blacksmith, always a blacksmith, just like your father and your grandfather before you. These days we have to manage multiple trajectories all at once. It’s hard work.
But does this mean we have multiple identities or just one identity. In our discussions we were divided on this. Some felt that we have just one identity, but that we behave differently in different contexts and that some parts of your identity come to the surface in different situations. Others do not see that one identity, just parts of it. Others thought that we have multiple identities.
We recognized that roles and identities are not the same thing and decided that we ‘play a role’, which is prescribed and comes from outside yourself, but that we ‘are a person with an identity’. But of course a role can impact on your identity.
There are also times when we may need to re-negotiate our identity. One of the BEtreat participants illustrated this with her decision to become a Muslim, which she explained required considerable re-negotiation of her identity.
Finally we discussed the ‘dark night of identity’ which I have blogged about before. There are times when your whole identity falls apart, or what you believed you could do you find you can’t, but as a learner you have to hang on in there, even though at the time you might wonder if you will ever come out of the ‘dark night’. Of course there are some people who thrive on these situations, but as Etienne said, ‘Mastery of learning requires understanding the struggle of what it takes to become something’. It is when our identities are threatened that we learn who we are.
Although we have an identity in relation to many different contexts and we may have to renegotiate our identity in different contexts, the work of identity is in one person. If we look at identity as multiple identities, we underestimate how much work goes on to keep a sense of personhood.
In the 21st century building your identity is hard work.
The Academic BEtreat, gave me plenty of opportunity to think about my identity, who I am, how others might perceive me, the meaning of identity and it’s relation to my learning and learning in general.